As social trends change, and men are more involved with child-rearing, it seems they are now more comfortable wearing their babies, according to New Zealand baby-wearing advocates, Louisa Currie and Heidi Riley. “Men are wearing their babies and it seems to be with some pride. It’s like they’re telling the world, look at me, I’m a hands-on dad,” says Louisa, whose online baby store Belly Beyond, which she runs with best friend and business partner Heidi, promotes baby-wearing in New Zealand and Australia.
They say that men wearing or carrying babies has become more of an everyday sight in New Zealand, where it was only previously seen overseas or in alternative hippy communities.
“Dads want to be more involved and baby-wearing fits the bill. Let’s face it, men should have no trouble baby-wearing,” says Heidi, “They tend to have stronger arms and broader shoulders and find carrying babies physically much easier.”
In fact, baby-wearing has been found to release natural hormones in men; which trigger paternal protective behaviours. These initiate a healthy fathering cycle, leading to relaxed and confident dads, who enjoy being identified as care-givers. “Most women identify as mothers from very early in a pregnancy. The fatherhood identity has a slower start and carrying baby and being involved helps hasten the process,” Louisa says.
Baby-wearing comes in all shapes and sizes; including slings, pouches and wraps. Many families use two or more styles of baby carrier over the life of a child, depending on age and need. Heidi notes that men look for baby carriers that are not too feminine and don’t inhibit their everyday activities. And, it was only a matter of time before the maternity industry began to look at paternity needs, says Louisa, whose company sells several baby carriers designed with dads in mind.
Louisa says the popular American-designed ERGObaby Sports Carrier was designed to appeal to men. ERGObaby will launch a new Performance Carrier, for active families, in September, which will be the lightest weight baby carrier available and has many other dad-friendly features. “Men are conscious of body temperature, so they like lighter-weight fabrics. They also prefer neutral and dark colours, avoiding feminine patterns and many prefer buckles over ties or sashes.” says Louisa.
Louisa’s husband, Rob, carried their two children and Heidi's husband Chris is also an avid baby-wearing fan. They say men should embrace baby-wearing as a fantastic way to bond with their babies. “If dad becomes confident with the baby, mum is much more relaxed and that’s the best start for a baby and family,” Rob says.
Hundreds of studies over recent decades have dramatically illustrated the benefits of baby-wearing, particularly proving that worn babies cry less and are more content. We’re now seeing benefits for baby-wearing by fathers too.
A few baby-wearing positives:
• Research shows men produce oxytocin while wearing their babies and get to share some of the happy hormones new mums feel.
• Multiple studies show that babies that are worn display more indicators of ‘bonding’ or ‘being attached’ than babies who are not.
• Because dads are with babies less; baby-wearing allows earlier bonding between father and child.
• Paediatrician, Dr Sears, recommends dads try the male-only ‘neck nestle’, where baby is held high enough to be soothed by dad’s voice box vibrations.
• Babies that are worn regularly spend more time in the beneficial ‘relaxed alert state’, in which infant’s thrive
• Baby-wearing allows dads to support mums with fussy babies, who are at risk of burn out
• Touch is a baby’s primary way of understanding the world around them; so baby-wearing plays an important role in baby’s feelings of security.
Heidi says there are many styles of baby-carriers available in New Zealand and online. But, she advises, choose carefully for safety and one that will last beyond 9 months old. “It’s important to research baby-carriers and check safety standards before you buy and to use it safely too. Mum and dad must always check that baby’s chin is not pressed to the chest to ensure airflow and that they can see the baby. The baby mustn’t be overdressed; and all clips and buckles need to be firmly in place”, she says. Louisa also cautions that anyone wearing or carrying a baby must only do baby-safe activities.